As some of the loyal readers of this humble blog know I am always interested in research proposals of varying degree. Recently I have begun a cursory review of the literature regarding formation of self concept in children. This became a very broad topic, and so I limited my research to formation of academic self concept and adopted children. Some of the initial reading has been interesting and illuminating. It also lead me to a conversation with an expert in adoptee issues – who is always more than willing to sledgehammer any ideas I may have about the topic. Actually, their input is usually very helpful.
Trying to get a broad view on the topic, I was just perusing through news articles one day and just hit adoption as a key word. Of course the topic of Madonna and her attempts to adopt a child from Africa came up. As I read I reflected, more on formation of self-concept issues. This lead me to have rather strong opinions forming, which is often the driving force behind some research. The researcher then has to do a lot of work with colleagues on the audit trail (if ethnographic approaches are used or on content validity if a survey device is used) to make sure that bias hasn’t crept in.
However, my reflections were what were the basis of Madonna’s wish to adopt a child from a third world nation and the potential outcomes. Her motivation she claims is altruistic and are in the interests of the child. Whenever I hear a person citing purely altruistic motivations, and my cynicism may be ramped up proportionally by the wealth or influence of the alleged altruist, my BS radar is actively pinging. I honestly don’t really believe that the actions of most people are done from altruistic motives but are done to promote self-actualization. There are so many benefits to this woman or any other person who ventures upon a course of adoption and many have formed guises to rationalize this understandable emotional benefit derived on the one who chooses to adopt.
Some of these fallacious altruisms may be:
1) God told us to adopt this child. While I am second to none in the role that faith may play in a person’s life, I am skeptical about this in many cases. Recently I came across a study that cited that nearly 40% of all adopted children are turned back in to the adoption agency. It is mathematically impossible that none of this children weren’t initially adopted at the behest of the Almighty. Either God was changing his mind in these instances or the person was acting in their own self interests – which may have some positive outcome for other mind you, and things didn’t quite work out. You will not believe how many people “knew” that God had drawn them to their spouse only to end up in divorce proceedings. Nations do this also. Whenever God speaks and tells someone to do some certain minute detail of their life, I am convinced that 90% of the time it is really a quite human rationalization to justify or lend credence to an action they would like to do without the involvement of God. While some may strongly believe this to be true, I am unaware that Madonna in particular has claimed to have a “Burning bush” experience.
2) Adoption is done in the interest of the child. This one may be more nefarious than citing the blessings of a deity because it shows an underlying arrogance on the part of the one who is adopting. Most people adopt out of a need they have more so than the need of the child. If this were truth there are some discrepancies that must be addressed. Why are the overwhelming number of children adopted under the age of four? Statistics show that as the child’s age increases their chance at being adopted decreases in geometric proportion to their age. These children have great need, yet the Almighty and the interests of these children are not being considered by a vast portion of people who are eligible for adopting. Another discrepancy is the large number of guarantees that many adoption agencies put forward in their promotion of adopting children. Guarantees of the health of the child, that the child is not offspring of someone who was drug addicted among others can be secured with a price. These are contractual issues which if violated would constitute breach and make the agency liable to damages or to provide a more suitable child. Much of this talk seems to be reminiscent of contracts entered into when purchasing a dog for show or for breeding, which may be a more accurate analogy to the practices of many who adopt a child.
In this particular instance a child from an economically disadvantaged nation may be adopted by a person of incredible wealth. There will doubtlessly be some economic advantage afforded this child that they would not be given access to should they remain in their current condition. However, there is a large amount of arrogance in the presupposition that adoption is in the interest of the child. What this child – and many who are adopted from developing nations – loses in regard to their culture, their language, their inherent religion, and in total their sense of identity within that culture, may outweigh what they gain by access to wealth. Statistically, this cultural arrogance is strengthened by the tendency of developed nations seeking out these children from undeveloped nations at a rate that is growing astronomically.
Another litmus test of this alleged altruism being in reality cultural arrogance can be illustrated in this scenario. Picture children in desparate need of basic necessities such as food, medical care, clean sanitary housing and education. These children exist in many places in the United States. Many of these children are also White – as in Appalachia and other areas of the nation. A large number of these children are adopted by parents who are of Islamic or say Hindu background. They are wealthy and could meet the physical needs of these children far better than their indigenous parents or perhaps than the social agencies in their region. The prospective adopted parents – who have dark skin, speak a different language and worship in a different fashion state that God told them they should adopt this poor suffering American child. The child will be forced to learn the language of the parents, will be raised in the religion of these parents and it is understood they will be asked to take on the world view of the predominant culture of these parents. This is in the interest of the child. One must wonder if this would be the view of any in the Industrialized West if this were a common practice.
Adoption like most human activities is done out motives of self actualization. If Madonna or any prospective adoptive parent wanted to act in a more altruistic fashion they would make a private donation to a bona fide relief organization for that or any other child which would raise the standards of living for those children. Lord knows they need that. What has happened in current practices and policies of parents from Industrialized nations adopting children from undeveloped nations is in many ways more akin to the stripping of natural resources – in forms of humanity – that happened during times of European Imperial aspirations from the 15th through the 20th centuries – moreso than acting in altruistic methods for the interests of children. An interesting study might be to compare the emotional factors that prospective adoptive parents face and find out the degree that they are causative towards the action of adopting a child. This would be particularly interesting is analyzed by comparing the adoptee’s emotional factors and see how they were causative in forming self concepts in the adoptee.
3) Adoption is a win-win –Due to the length of this post comments will be brief. Adoption at its base is formed by loss and usually accompanied by some type of pain. It is not a win win. Don’t get me wrong. Adoption can be of benefit to all parties, but my feeling is that looking honestly into the mirror of self would be an important factor in this occurring. However, in most situations may be making the best of a situation – and the policy practices currently in place by developing nations desperate for influx of currency from Industrialized nations – and the need of those who are comparatively wealthy to have a child by nearly any means necessary – create conditions which are from from the “win-win” picture painted or at all “best” policies. The current painting being framed by society is one of impoverished and helpless (nations and children) being removed from indigenous lands by the powerful and wealthy (mostly those from the Industrialized West) for ostensibly altruistic motivations.
Hardly the stuff of headline news. Even when Madonna is on the front page; it is merely history repeating itself.